The Real Difference You Make By Shopping Small

Buy local Christmas presents to put more intention into supporting those we know.
It’s a funny thing if you think about it: December 25 comes along and everybody I know buys a bunch of stuff from the store (or, increasingly, Amazon) and gives it away wrapped in fancy paper they bought from the store (or, increasingly, Amazon). And we do it all to celebrate… Jesus Christ being born?

Kind of random, for sure. Random or not, Christmas is a time to show other people how much you care about them. And isn’t that the reason for the season, anyway? To celebrate God’s love for us by showing our love for each other? Alright.

But let’s be honest here. Christmas gift-giving, if we’re not careful, can easily become just another banal exercise in consumerism and wastefulness — albeit well-intentioned consumerism and wastefulness. In my life, Exhibit A is when I inevitably end up at the local Target store on Christmas Eve, because I still need to get gifts for the people I didn’t get around to buying something for.

I end up buying things not because I think someone will be better off with what I get for them, but because it’s better that I give them something than nothing at all, or so it seems. In those moments, I’m convinced I’m doing it wrong.

And it’s because of those moments that I think some change is in order. Sure, there are arguments to be made for some sort of secret Santa system (buying a gift for one person instead of everybody) or even abandoning the whole gift-giving system altogether. But if you’re like me and would rather work within the prevailing system, but do it more thoughtfully, consider buying from makers this year. And if possible, buy from those you know personally. Here’s why.

My friend Fabi is an incredibly talented artist who works for Disney. And it fits, too — if someone didn’t know her in real life, I’d probably describe her like I would a Disney character: bubbly, larger-than-life smile to match her personality, rosy cheeks. I got to witness her talent first-hand when we were at a brunch gathering and she began to draw sketches of each of the attendees. That’s Fabi for you: happiest when sharing her talent with others, even in simple ways.

On the one hand, Fabi is the type of person I want to support, personally and professionally. On the other hand, I don’t personally have much use for the Coco book she illustrated. But you know who would? One of my eight nieces and nephews. Not only is it a great age-specific gift, but it’s a gift we can share together, as uncle Isaac reads to the kiddos. I can also share with them about my friend who drew the pictures and maybe even introduce them someday.

I’m thankful to live in a time when such advances in technology and production and distribution make it possible to purchase things incredibly efficiently and affordably, compared to how much time and energy (not to mention money) it would require me to produce them for myself.

But the other side of that coin is that it’s a rare occurrence to actually interact with the human beings who produce the things we’re buying. Hell, if you’re shopping online or even if you take advantage of the self-checkout line at Target, you don’t even have to interact with the people retailing the goods.

Buying from makers is an excellent way to retain the humanity of our transactions. Not only is there a relationship involved in the buying and selling — I can ensure that the maker is directly compensated for his or her work as much as possible.

I’ve even started to go out of my way to support makers outside of the Christmas season. My cousin Shane is an artist specializing in urban calligraphy (yes, you read that correctly). At the annual masquerade party I host, I hired him to come and paint masks on people’s faces. He did some amazing work, but it was even more edifying for me to have him meet my friends and have them appreciate his work.

I know how much it means to me when other people support my entrepreneurial efforts, so buying from makers is a way to extend that same support and encouragement. Anybody who’s ever put themselves and their talents out there into the marketplace knows it risks a vulnerability: What if they don’t like what I sell them? Or worse, what if nobody bothers to buy what I’m selling?

Conversely, there’s something greatly edifying about people who see what you’ve made — what you’ve put your time, resources, and your heart and soul into — and find it worthy of using their limited resources to pay for it.

This Christmas, before you head to the big box store or log on to Amazon, I invite you to think about whom in your community you can support with your Christmas shopping. Gift-giving is a great way to show other people how much you care about them. By buying from makers, you’re showing that love in more ways than one.

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